Rising acid in oceans is worsening industry toxins

February 12, 2013 by Harriet Jarlett, PlanetEarth Online
Rising acid in oceans is worsening industry toxins
Crustaceans like mussels may be harmed by several stress factors.

Acidification of UK waters may make industrially-contaminated sediments more toxic over time, say scientists.

The study looked at crustaceans that feed on the surface of sediments from dredged ports and estuaries.

It found that ocean acidification, caused by , causes sediments contaminated with metal to become more toxic. This can result in significant for the animals that graze on these sediments.

'The combined effect on these animals, of coping with adapting to climate change as well as increased toxin levels, could prove to be fatal,' says Dave Sheahan, from the Centre for Environment, and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), senior researcher on the study.

Cefas already monitors the sediments from industrialised estuaries, such as the Tees in northeast England, for poisonous . These areas must be regularly dredged to maintain harbour entrances, and the excess material has to be tested for its toxicity.

The scientists placed dredged material from one of these sites into laboratory tanks, then introduced burrowing crustaceans which normally graze on the sediment surface. Next, they exposed the creatures to water with levels of acid found in today, as well as acid levels predicted for the next 50 and 100 years. Animals that survived ten days in these tanks were then tested to see if they incurred DNA damage.

The animals experienced significant DNA damage, which rose with acidification levels, suggesting that when acidification is combined with metal in sediments it can be more harmful.

But the study also showed that as toxicity of ingested metals rises, animals are sometimes able to adapt their behaviour to cope.

Dr Silvana Birchenough, senior benthic ecologist and co-author of the study, describes how 'initially you can see the distinct burrows they made, but after treatment there was less activity, some species were just sat on top without moving much. This shows us how some organisms, may be able to move more or less to regulate for these changes. So there will be some trade off in behaviour.'

Sheahan explained that scientists may now find a certain species tolerance is worse, and over time that species would be outcompeted by other groups. Although they expect some species to be able to survive better, or some genotypes within species better able to tolerate changes.

At the moment dredged sediments are monitored and if toxicity falls below a predetermined threshold they are considered safe to deposit in the sea. However, rising ocean may put more stress on the animals, on top of the metal toxicity, meaning current threshold values will need to be changed to make sure all marine animals, including crustaceans, are protected.

Some commercially important crustaceans, like lobsters and scallops, now need to be assessed to see if they are also exposed to contaminated sediments. Birchenough continued, 'there's a commercial importance on where we think major exposure routes are.'

'There are two aspects to our study here of interest; whether contaminated sediments and changes in ocean acidification will affect animals in the marine situation, and also whether we use these tests to make a judgement about sediments that we currently deem ok.' Sheahan concluded, 'We may need to think about moderating certain activities that currently we think acceptable.'

Explore further: Sydney harbors deadly diet for sea creatures

More information: Roberts, D. et al. (2013). Ocean acidification increases the toxicity of contaminated sediments. Global Change Biology, 19: 340-351. doi: 10.1111/gcb.12048

Related Stories

Sydney harbors deadly diet for sea creatures

April 7, 2008

Contaminated seaweeds in Sydney Harbour could be threatening the small animals that feed on them, according to a new study revealing that the harbour's seaweeds have the world's highest levels of copper and lead contamination.

Echinoderms contribute to global carbon sink

January 8, 2010

The impact on levels of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere by the decaying remains of a group of marine creatures that includes starfish and sea urchin has been significantly underestimated.

Carbon dioxide poses risk to marine life survival

August 6, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Climate change and the subsequent acidification of the world's oceans will significantly reduce the successful fertilisation of certain marine species by the year 2100, an international team of biological ...

Recommended for you

Mystery solved for mega-avalanches in Tibet

January 23, 2018

An international scientific effort determined the cause of a highly unusual and deadly glacier avalanche in Tibet in 2016, a new Nature Geoscience paper says.

First quantifiable observation of cloud seeding

January 23, 2018

A University of Wyoming researcher contributed to a paper that demonstrated, for the first time, direct observation of cloud seeding—from the growth of the ice crystals through the processes that occur in the clouds to ...

So much depends on a tree guard

January 23, 2018

In a big city, trees, like people, like their space. In a new study, researchers at Columbia University found that street trees protected by guards that stopped passersby from trampling the surrounding soil absorbed runoff ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (13) Feb 12, 2013
The oceans flow don't ya' know and though a laboratory tank can indeed be turned into a toxic brew by filling it with local disaster area mud and adding acid, a whole ocean will not be so cooperative. Meanwhile, CO2 is greening the whole biosphere, and that's Biology 101 just as greenhouse theory is Physics 101 before activist computer modelers rely on massive 3X amplification of any warming by utterly speculative positive water vapor feedback, their models being as removed from a cloud-filled atmosphere as much as a tank is from a real ocean. Bacteria love metal ions, but such ecosystems do not survive sitting in an aquarium all month! Now excuse me while I play more Glenn Beck re-runs now that my work here today is enough to earn another Koch brothers donation.

-=NikFromNYC=-, Ph.D. in carbon chemistry (Columbia U.) with additional laboratory background in DNA/protein interaction (UofMN), organometallic synthesis (UofMN), and nanotechnology (Harvard).
4.1 / 5 (8) Feb 12, 2013
Ah, the "CO2 is plant food" Crock.


Denialists like Nik are incapable of learning.
4.4 / 5 (7) Feb 12, 2013
-=NikFromNYC=-, Ph.D. in carbon chemistry (Columbia U.) with additional laboratory background in DNA/protein interaction (UofMN), organometallic synthesis (UofMN), and nanotechnology (Harvard).

With this impressive list of credentials I would have thought that Nick would just say the theory behind the study is wrong...unless of course it's not. Yes, bacteria love metal ions...complex organisms, not so much, unless they are the "friendly" ions that we actually require to function.
By the way Nick, do you think that they didn't accurately simulate sea water for these experiments? Just kinda thinking it would actually be their first order of business.

And of course what Vendi said....
1 / 5 (9) Feb 12, 2013
A YouTube video on: (1) some random Russian drought TV report, (2) a random flood in Iran TV report, (3) rogue scientist ("reverse the null hypothesis" for global warming but in Climategate e-mail lamented that missing ocean heat was a "travesty" since it could not be accounted for) claiming that droughts/floods are getting worse despite down trends in actual historical data, (4) a random flood in Iowa on TV, (5) sound bites read from a non-peer reviewed activist report about droughts/floods overwhelming fertilization despite actual data about double digit percentage boosts in actual crop yields in the last decade, (6) a Natl. Wildlife Fed. sweater girl doing her own flood panic newscast, (7) a Chinese TV report, etc.

None of these have anything to do with disproving the basic learnings of every school kid who takes a biology class. TV clips of stormy weather interspersed with Lord Monckton testifying that CO2 is plant food is textbook propaganda, not a form of valid argument.
4.2 / 5 (6) Feb 12, 2013
Funny I thought Nik was just being sarcastic.
3.7 / 5 (10) Feb 12, 2013
Lord Who?

Monckton is no Lord. You have been suckered by his dishonest presentation of himself. In fact the house of Lords denied him the title.

Now (Almost Lord) Monckton has claimed among other things to have a cure for cancer, aids, and a host of other diseases in some nutritional supplement.

"TV clips of stormy weather interspersed with Lord Monckton testifying" - NikkieTard

Do you believe the Lord of medical Quackery, (not quite Lord) Monckton?

The Alchemist
1 / 5 (7) Feb 13, 2013
CO2 is plant food, but for some reason the Earth has lost the ability to sink more than man can produce.
In general, poisons are alkalai, so in some realms there should be neutralizing effects. It is a rare acid that is harmful, except that it will burn the heck out of you or cause acidosis.
@Nik, how about a non-computer model, one that has work perfectly and predictively for 30 years?
5 / 5 (6) Feb 13, 2013
Meanwhile, CO2 is greening the whole biosphere

Bullshit is also plant food, but if you cover your roses with 6 feet of the stuff, they won't grow so well.

and that's Biology 101

Would you consider taking some more advanced courses, then?
5 / 5 (5) Feb 13, 2013
Nik says;
activist computer modelers
I AM an ACTIVIST COMPUTER MODELER! Do you want to say it to my face? I can speculate anything you want because people don't have a clue if they are not guided to a conclusion. In the mean-time CO2 is greening the whole blogosphere.

Great post. very fine sarcasm.
The Alchemist
1 / 5 (5) Feb 15, 2013
Howhot-hey it should be trivial to demonstrate the effects of releasing heat into the Earth at ground-level near populations. (Basically 100% absorption) How about you confirm my model? I can help out with phenomenology, if you need it.
5 / 5 (1) Mar 30, 2013
the point is if you unbalance a field massively adding anything you get a change, and massive is amount short time > species don't get a chance to switch their habits/DNA to survive. So our answer should be : What is important for us to keep balanced around us ? in order to survive the massive changes we need to produce.(or not) Cheers

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.